Brian: Hands down it’s the size rules (which may be changed or modified). Such a useful tool for scaling deadliness of a creature, spell, object or trap within the rule frame. I understand that many people didn’t like the math, but it really is fantastic.
Peter: This was a hard choice and I am wavering between two possibles. I love the experience rules. I first saw them in HARP and I am really pleased to see them being used as the default rules in RMU. I was using the HARP rules, house ruled into my RMC game but now I am using the RMU rules in their place. My other love is Spell Law, pretty much all of it from the completed spell lists to the use of the spell aquisition skill as spell mastery.
Interestingly Brian and I are on different sides of the RMU size rules argument. I found the rules cumbersome, awkward and terminally slow. They initally really applied mostly to Arms Law and I though I could just junk all of Arms Law and rewrite my existing combat tables to fit RMU, which I probably will do anyway. That was before I saw Creature Law and the normalised creatures. It is a tribute to RMU and all flavours of Rolemaster that it is so modular that something as central as these rules can be changed without breaking the system.
Brian: I don’t really use any of them now, but Companion I had a lot of material that could have been “core” or included in RM. Paladin being the most obvious. Arcane magic was ok, but I didn’t feel it was necessary to classify it as a realm. Battlerunes were very cool and we just rolled them into Open Essence at the time.
Peter: No surprise here but the RMC Combat Companion is my book I could not be without. I thnk it is one of the ‘lost’ books because of IP issues and mine is falling apart but I have scanned and OCRed much of it into word and the condensed combat tables I hand typed into Excel. What you get is a few professions if you use them, armour by the piece which I derived from HARP I believe, weapon katas and fighting styles which puts two weapon combo back into RMC and the jewel in the crown the condensed combat system. There is a sample below and you can see that you get the 10 armour types, criticals that are not split into Slash, Krush, Puncture but rather customised to the type of attack, so arrow criticals for bows, dagger criticals for short blades and the like. You get many weaons per page and the size modifications tucked into a corner. You can run entire combats without having to turn an page if the weapons are similar enough. The only drawback is that the same criticals come around again a little too often. That is why I have excel versions of these pages. There are only 18 attack pages of which 6 are frequently used. Those 6 I have rewritten the criticals keeping the effects the same in terms of hits, bleeding and stun etc., the location the same but just changing the prose descriptions. I started with two copies and used to swap between sets for each game session to keep the criticals varied but I now have a couple of pages with three versions after being inspired one evening. This book and the condensed combat system really triggered my appetite for simplifying RM as combats became so fast and exciting to run that it made everything else look slow by combarison!
Brian: One of my favorite is Uda Tyygk, in the Iron Wind. Hidden fortress, the Thyfuriak. Very cool. Reminds me of a toy I used to have: the mountain fortress from MAC (mobile action command)
Peter: For me it has to be the MERP campaign book Northern Mirkwood. This book has everything, the floor plans vary from the great halls of Erebor to towers and orc holds, every one of them I have reused time and again. The master military charts with every NPC, and class or adverary clearly detailed make off the cuff encounters dead easy and the amount of unique content to make the region really stand out as being different from any other woods or forest. This was also the first MERP campaign book I bought and with my only other experience of ‘modules’ being D&D ones, this book completely changed my concept of what a rpg suppliment could and should be.
Brian: My group has been playtesting “Priest-King of Shade” for 2 years now. There are 12 adventures that can be combined into a long adventure path that they are doing and are up to part VI. I went a bit off script and threw a Battle-Priest of Z’taar at them during a particularly tough fight they were having. The Priests are unpredictable—chaos agents really. The Priest attacked their enemies first but then saw one of the players as a “worthy opponent” and switched to attacking that player and the party. Ha! Perhaps not cunning but it was a bit of a shock to the players to deal with a Battle-Priest in full Beserker mode.
Peter: I was really pleased how I lured the party to the deserted, remote, haunted house, despite telling them that it was a remote, deserted, haunted house and then threw tons of undead at them. It was only when the they were actually confronted with the obvious ghost that they stopped trying to work out who was trying to scare them off. According to feedback there was no way that it could be a real haunted house as things are never as the GM says they are. So that could be cunning or it is one of those reverse, reverse, reverse psychology things. Where I told them the truth, so they wouldn’t believe me as I never tell them the truth, so by really telling them the truth I put them off the scent!
Brian: I’ve always liked Terry’s magic items. As a Warrior Monk there were very few magic items that I could use, so I really appreciated those. Two of my favorites are in Cloudlords of Tanara:
Fist of Agonar. A spiked gauntlet that destroys doors.
Jarn’s Shurikens. 2 shurikens that hold small red disks that explode as Firbolts 4x damage. The disk is spent but the shurikens return via Long Door.
Peter: My favourite ‘cool bit’ isn’t a thing, it is a monent. It is when you get a new RM book and it has new critical tables and you get to read though the really dangerous fatal wounds for the first time, normally trying not to laugh or smirk and the gory deaths.
Brian: I’ve always liked the Mystic base list “Hiding” and on it are two cool spells: 14th lvl “Merging” which is a great escape/hide spell and 13th lvl “Flattening” which makes a player 2 dimensions. How cool is that?
Peter: Mass Vibrations I, 13th level Essence Hand. Everyone in your field of vision needs to make an RR every round of fumble their weapon. It is absolutely brilliant and far better than any kind of blade turning. The first time I discovered this spell I was playing an invisible illusionist who cast this followed by a summoning spell that gave me a pair of tigers against a dozen guards. It was carnage and I don’t think any of them survived! Even the lower level spells are cool. In RM you rarely meet massed enemy so Vibrations I as a first level spell is a great defence once your caster reaches 4th or 5th level.
Brian: “Talents”. Can’t stand any rules that are “one-offs” are turn into crutches that underpin the entire character.
Peter: The extended character background options from RoCoI particularly the Skill at Arms and Skill at Magic. These are prime examples of where a single (un)lucky dice roll can complerely change a character. There is no balancing factor and no relationship between the result of the dice roll and the initial character concept.
Brian: I almost always played a Warrior Monk (Caylis, who is featured in some RMU examples) but occasionally I ran a Rogue. Strangely enough I have never played a spell-caster! I played Monks in D&D as well. I think I like the minimalist and self-reliant nature of the profession: I don’t worry about loot, magic-items, equipment etc. I don’t need weapons to attack or armor for protection. It’s very liberating!
Peter: What I like most are characters that are as comfortable out of combat as they are in a fight. I don’t like the idea that I ever have to take a back seat. The professions I favour in fantasy settings tend to be thieves because they are pretty good all rounders, mentalists and illusionists. I don’t feel the need to be the big firebolt caster much prefering subtler magics. In Space Master I really like the criminologist profession as a basis for building just about any character concept.
Just for fun Brian and I have come up with the 12 days of Rolemaster. Twelve questions about our Rolemaster experiences and we will post our answers to each question on the 12 days of Christmas, starting on the 25th.
If you want to join in then the 12 questions are:
25th What was your first experience of Rolemaster?
26th Your favourite Rolemaster profession (and why)?
27th Best NPC? created or in a module.
28th Have you ever regretted allowing an optional rule or house rule into the game?
29th The most useful piece of technology (hardware or software) for Rolemaster?
30th Your Rolemaster favourite spell (from any list)?
31st Best “cool bit” from a RM product.?
1st Is there any cunning plan you can share that you are hoping to spring on your players this year? If you don’t want to spoil it then what was the best cunning plan from the last 12 months?
2nd Best layout/structure in a RM product?
3rd Of all the companions and ‘laws’ which book could you not be without?
4th In my opinion the best bit of RMU is…?
5th Excepting Perception, Stalk & Hide and Body Development, of all the skills in all the books which one would you say is the single most important for a player to take?
If you want to join in the you can post your answers in the comments each day or take the twelve questions and create your own post.
This may be my last post for the year due to the holidays and travel so I thought I would finish up 2016 with some random thoughts.
- I started posting earlier this year and I’m not really sure how many articles I’ve posted. I keep a running list of ideas that pop into my head: some random, some sparked by comments on the RM Forums and some when I’m working on RM/SW stuff. A few times I come up with great ideas and don’t write them down—only to forget them. That’s frustrating. Obviously Peter has been doing this longer and keeping up a 2 blog/week pace takes quite a bit of discipline. Other RPG blog sites post MUCH less frequently or have lots of contributors to share the load. Both Peter and I have encouraged others to write posts but haven’t really gotten a strong response. That surprises me given the number of people that write fairly long and technical arguments in the RM Forums; I would think they would have other material to contribute?
- I’ve posted up a number of blogs and RM posts regarding to big projects I’ve been working on for over 10 years. Project BASiL (Brians Alternate Spell Law) and SW “Red Atlas” (name inspired by the Redbook used for RMC I). Our SW “Red Atlas” is over 300 pages without charts, pictures, graphics, layout or any creatures and a narrative timeline rather than the standard date timeline and fills in a lot of fundamental information that we needed to address during our own gameplay. More importantly it consolidates all the “world level” info into one tome, drawn from all the canon books that Terry has written. Differentiating world info from local or regional info was a useful exercise—and allowed us to identify gaps in material that could be expanded in a future Master Atlas.
- Priest-King of Shade. Terry has hinted that he’d like to get “Priest-King of Shade” done this year. The module is 27 years in the making—the original manuscript was approved by Coleman in 1989 and sent back with hand-written notes by Terry but life got in the way and ICE when through changes and I never finished it. “Shade” is actually a spin-off of that original project: Empire of the Black Dragon (which is now a separate module I’m finishing up). There has been some speculation on its relationship to “Shade of the Sinking Plain” so I thought I would provide a few answers. In fact, Priest-King was meant to be a re-imagining or ret-con of the “Sinking Plain”—a module that really never fit in with the Loremaster or Shadow World series. I took some of the material from Empire of the Black Dragon and worked to make a loose adaption or “inspired by” module. If you have ever read “Sinking Plain” you know that there isn’t much info that fits into SW—it is very D&D in style and feels like an early Midkemia Press or Judges Guild product. However there were some cool elements that were used for inspiration. Here is an early blurb I wrote for the back cover:
Agyra. Far from the historic events of Emer and Jaiman, this region has been cruelly shaped for thousands of years by both natural forces and the powerful flows of Essence. Scattered and isolated tribes peoples are a legacy of a nation that sunk beneath the waves in millennium past. Monolithic blocks scattered along deserted coasts and leagues of crumbled ruins lying in shallow waters are remnants of a lost civilization.
However, these lands are not dormant. Powerful nations and secretive groups are at odds: a war of not just arms but of politics and commerce. Into this conflict a new power has risen. A mysterious Priest-King and his devout followers have occupied an ancient citadel and are slowly expanding their power across the lands. For the nearby tribes that inhabit the coasts, these newcomers are viewed with outright fear. Rumors of demonic armies, missing children and empty villages have cast a pall throughout these lands.
But adventurers have come nonetheless. Ancient ruins have been discovered: a sprawling city lying submerged in the shallow waters off the southern coast of Agyra. Many believe the ruins date millennia back to the First Era and holds untold wealth and the secrets of the Ancients.
The Priest-King of Shade is a module detailing the lands of South West Agyra and the growing empire of the Priest-King of Shade. This product contains a regional guide, maps and layouts of key places, detailed description of key NPCs and 12 adventures ready to play. Designed for player’s level 5-20. Will you confront the minions of the Priest-King?
- Empire of the Black Dragon. I was focused almost exclusively on getting “Shade” published and let EotBD idle for several years. Now I’m back working on it and hope to have a draft ready for review in the next few months. I’ve always found Ulya Shek the more interesting of the DragonLords and the tech angle adds to the creative design choices. It feels more like a “Fortress” book (MERP) rather than a linear adventure or regional overview module. We’ll see. I had also wanted to tackle Drul Churk but Terry covered him in Emer III.
- It’s amazing how much work has gone into the RMU re-design. Given the fact that it’s all volunteer you really have to applaud the contributors. House ruling professions or combat sequences is quite different than designing a framework for attack tables and critical charts or a foundation for creature development. Yes, some of it is very crunchy and may not need to be in the initial product offering, but it’s a tremendous amount of work. So Kudos to Matt, Vlad, Dan and now Jonathan (sorry if I missed anyone else) for all their effort. I’m sure they have felt unappreciated at times but they carried the load for all of us.
If you are regular reader here at the Rolemasterblog, thanks! If you have an interest in adding your voice to this blog than please reach out to Peter. Best wishes to all on this holiday season.